Climate change action
Climate change action Pixabay

When you read news about floods, melting ice caps, rising pollution level, plastic pollution and obsolescent species, do you feel that your heartbeat is rising, breathlessness or a chest pressure? This is nothing but eco-anxiety, which causes due to "chronic fear of environmental doom", particularly a problem among younger generations.

According to the American Psychological Association, these conflicted feelings are now a part of everyday life, thanks to the catastrophe of global warming and the government's inaction.

Psychologists are examining patients with high levels of stress over climate change, with symptoms including panic attacks, obsessive thinking, loss of appetite and insomnia, 10 Daily reported.

This comes after a Lowy Institute poll released in May this year said two-thirds of Australians considered climate change a "critical threat" to national interests, ranking it a more serious concern than terrorism.

Declaring the issue of climate change a "health emergency", the Australian Medical Association (AMA) in a statement highlighted its significant impacts. It mentioned that such environmental changes can deteriorate physical as well as mental health and fasten the death ratio.

The AMA statement reflects a similar position taken by other medical bodies, including the American Medical Association and the British Medical Association, as well as, the World Health Organisation, which describes climate change as "the greatest threat to global health in the 21st Century".

According to Cambridge University's "Public Health and Mental Health Implications of Environmentally Induced Forced Migration" paper, rising global temperatures, rising sea levels, increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters and progressive depletion of life-sustaining resources, create dangerous tipping points for public health and security, leading to forced migration and exposing migrants to trauma and violence.

A team of psychologists working with the University of Bath is receiving a growing volume of inquiries from teachers, doctors, and therapists regarding the issue of "eco-anxiety", reported The Telegraph.

According to the Climate Psychology Alliance (CPA), some children complaining of eco-anxiety -- with symptoms similar to clinical anxiety, the feelings being the same, but the cause different -- have even been administered psychiatric drugs.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in the US has not yet included 'eco-anxiety' as a specific condition, but the American Psychological Association referred to the term in its report detailing the impacts of climate change on mental health.

According to the report, areas affected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 saw more than twice suicide and suicidal ideation among people. It should be mentioned that 49 percent of them had developed an anxiety or mood disorder, including depression, loss of personal and professional identity, loss of social support structures, loss of a sense of control and autonomy and other mental health impacts such as feelings of helplessness, fear and fatalism.

Caroline Hickman, a teaching fellow at Bath and a CPA executive, said she had heard children saying "what's the point in going to university or what's the point of doing my exams".

Hickman, however, says eco-anxiety is a healthy and appropriate emotional response to the issue of climate change, which, rather than being ignored, should involve getting informed with things.

It will likely lessen feelings of hopelessness and loss of control among the younger generation, she added.